1.6 Captive Pursuit

In this episode, we meet the first representatives of Gamma Quadrant life (apart, obviously, from Odo, but we didn’t know that yet).  A damaged ship comes flying through the wormhole, clearly about to explode. It’s sole passenger has to be practically forced to dock to make repairs, naming himself only as Tosk.

O’Brien boards the ship to make repairs, and finds it deserted. He starts to make the repairs anyway, and we discover that Tosk has the ability to make himself invisible. Tosk is not exactly forthcoming about his background, mission or what damaged his ship. O’Brien, mindful of his orders to make sure that First Contact with a Gamma Quadrant species goes smoothly, escorts Tosk to the temporary quarters he has been assigned.

Tosk remains unwilling to divulge his mission, although it is clear that his ship was damaged by weapons fire. He is caught by Odo breaking into a weapons locker and thrown into a holding cell. He is still there a little while later when a much larger version of his ship appears, and beams Hunters onto the station.

These Hunters, equipped with phaser-proof armour, proceed directly to Tosk’s cell and use their visors to see through his shroud. They contemptously capture him and explain their purpose – Tosk are genetically bred to be hunted. For his failure to provide an interesting chase, Tosk will be taken back to his home planet alive – a grave dishonour.

Sisko allows the Hunters to remove Tosk, but says he will grant asylum if he asks for it. Tosk refuses out of hand, saying only that he is Tosk.

O’Brien is distraught at this, and comes up with a cunning plan. He walks into Odo’s office and says that Sisko has asked him to escort the Hunter and his prisoner to the airlock. Odo, furious that Sisko is once again questioning his jurisdiction, marches out of the office to confront the commander. O’Brien drops his commbadge on the desk and takes Tosk and the Hunter to his  ship. The airlock power field overloads and incapacitates the Hunter. O’Brien and Tosk engage in a daring airvent escape back to his own ship. There is a touching parting of the two friends, as the Hunt is resumed.

Sisko hauls O’Brien into his office and rebukes him fiercely, finishing off with a subtle hint that Sisko and Odo allowed Tosk to escape.

==

Another genuine moral dilemma! It goes something like this: is the hunting and killing of a sentient being ever acceptable? What if the sentient being is specially bred for that sole purpose, which purpose is treated culturally as the culmination of existence?

The episode actually tries to escape making a decision, basing it on the Prime Directive and allowing Sisko to weasel out of making a decision by placing it all on Tosk’s head – claim asylum, and violate your entire existence; or go to your fate-worse-than-death. Hardly a pleasant choice.

It’s O’Brien’s illegal actions that give Sisko and Tosk a Third Choice – escape and continue the Hunt. There’s really no question that Tosk’s lifespan is measurable in seconds once he’s away from the station – that big warship right behind him is a fairly heavy clue – and yet it is treated as a noble act.

I guess, ultimately, if a person wants to be hunted down and killed, that’s their right. But it makes me slightly uncomfortable that Starfleet officers are party to such a thing…

…which is exactly the point! Y’see, DS9 is a lot rougher than TNG – even on cross-over characters like O’Brien and, later, Worf. They make choices that we might, in hindsight, consider less than optimal.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t have them any other way.

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